We have all been affected by cancer in our lives. I wanted to take the time to pay tribute this month to my very courageous and strong clients who are surviving the battle against great cancer. Rachael and Karl won a family session with me that I donated to auction at the Young Survivors Group a few years ago and keep coming back to me for family pictures. These pictures are from last fall, but I wanted to use them to share the Koontz’s family story. Rachael was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 28 years old and pregnant with her oldest boy, Evan. Today she is a five year survivor with two adorable boys and great husband. Her story is inspiring and I think the photos truly show the appreciation and love this family has for one another and life in general. Here is Rachael’s story:

I had a lumpectomy while pregnant, which was really tough. I had a hard time healing and developed all day “morning sickness.” I had to have Evan early, so I could start six rounds of chemo, followed by 30 radiation treatments. The biggest struggle that we had when I was diagnosed and doing treatment, was trying to do the best for Evan. We delayed my treatment so he could develop more, but I still had to have a c-section at 36 weeks. Evan’s lungs were not fully developed and he had to be in the NICU for 11 days. I was so upset because I knew he was there because of my cancer. It was really hard to leave him at the hospital and go home. Once he was home, it was often difficult to take care of Evan, because I was sick and weak from treatment. Carl helped so much, but it was hard for him to take care of me and Evan. We were all exhausted. Sometimes we sent Evan to my in-laws for the night, so Carl and I could rest. It was emotionally difficult to have to send my newborn away, but we felt we had no other choice.

Today I am a 5 1/2 year survivor! I have completed all chemo and radiation treatments and I am even down to seeing my doctors once a year, instead of every month or
every few months! I enjoy helping other women who are fighting breast cancer. I have had the opportunity to help women through our Young Survivors Group and I am in the
process of getting approved to become a support person for Hope for Two, which is a group for women that are diagnosed with cancer while they are pregnant. I like the
opportunity to help others be aware that breast cancer can happy to anyone, at any age.

Also, when people know someone that is diagnosed with cancer or any illness really, do not be afraid to reach out to them. Offer to bring food, send a gift card for pizza,
send flowers, call, etc. and then do it. I had a GREAT support system with my friends and family and they made the journey MUCH easier.

I really try to remember to be grateful for life and it’s many blessings each day. There was a time that I thought I might not live and worried that I would not see Evan grow
up. Even on tough days, I try really hard to count my blessings.

Rachael kept a blog when she was going through treatment. To hear more about her story go to: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/rachaelkoontz